The Little Death


Directed By Josh Lawson

Starring Josh Lawson, Bojana Novakovic, Damon Herriman, Kate Mulvaney, Kate Box, Patrick Brammall


In a moment of post-coital honesty, Maeve (Bojana Novakovic) admits to her long term boyfriend, Paul (writer and director Josh Lawson) that she harbours a secret rape fantasy. Paul, rather dumbstruck but wanting to please his partner, attempts to accommodate. With that, we’re off to the races with this Australian portmanteau sex comedy.

Lawson delves into the disparate sex lives of a selection of couples who all live on the same suburban street, and who are all dealing with some manner of satisfaction-challenging sexual dysfunction or incompatibility. Dan (Damon Herriman) and Evie (Kate Mulvaney) experiment with role-playing to revitalise their marriage, only to come awry when he discovers a heretofore unrealised passion for acting. Richard (Patrick Brammall) and Rowena (Kate Box) are desperate to conceive, but complications arise when she discovers she can only climax when he is crying and seeks to engineer a series of personal tragedies to ensure her satisfaction. And so on.

There’s not much of a thesis underlying these loosely connected tales of titillation, but they are united by a playful sense humour and a commitment to not judging their hapless protagonists too harshly. As is the nature of this kind of anthology film, some scenarios work better than others: the story of Phil (Alan Dukes), who can only stand his nagging wife, Maureen (Lisa McCune) when she’s asleep and so begins drugging her, is easily the most problematic. For the most part, however, they work. There’s a kind of cock-eyed romanticism at the heart of even the most duplicitous acts – at one point Rowena kidnaps Richard’s beloved dog, while Paul’s attempts to fulfil Maeve’s fantasy show a commitment the equal of any of the great romances of history.

It’s also, belly-laugh funny, with layered salvos of jokes in every scene. Lawson isn’t afraid to go for the slapstick and the lowbrow, but there’s also a number of long term pay-offs and some subtle sight gags in play, too. On occasion the film drifts dangerously close to melodrama, but there’s always a gag at the ready to course-correct (Kim Gyngell’s neighbourly sex offender is used to good effect in this function).

The Little Death is not the best film you’ll see this year, but it is a rare bird in that it’s a fun, unselfconscious, immensely likeable Australian comedy. We don’t seem to get too many of those these days, so be sure to make the time for this one – it aims to please.